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Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Danny Gospel by David Athey

Danny Gospel's mind has been playing tricks on him ever since his mother and sister died. One morning he wakes up and gets kissed on the lips by a woman wearing white, but she disappears after their kiss. He tries desperately the find her, but he comes to realize that his mind has run away from him again. His brother and close friend are the only people who seem to understand him. But when he finds himself wanted for stealing mail and assaulting a man at a bar, Danny flees from him home state of Iowa and drives as far as he can away. But he soon realizes that he cannot escape is problems and that he should return and face the music. But what he finds when he returns to Iowa surprises even him.

Danny Gospel challenges Bye Bye Bertie by Rick Dewhurst as one of the strangest and most nonsensical books ever written. It seems as though David Athey uses Danny's mental disorder as a licence to do whatever he wanted with the plot, thus creating plot holes and leaving sanity behind. He causes the reader to feel like they have a mental disorder themselves, an ability I am not sure should be rewarded. In short, Danny Gospel is a book about nothing.

The cast of characters through Danny's eyes is certainly an experience in itself. There are several other mentally ill characters, but the reader does not know whether these are real characters or just extensions of Danny. Danny's brother is the best character because he has a personality lurking beneath his skin. There are few other character David Athey sticks with. Most of the characters are just drive-bys that are never mentioned again. Basically, David Athey also used Danny's mental illness as an excuse to avoid character development.

Besides Danny's crimes and infrequent trips to the psychologist, there are few other plot points that can be nailed down. Abstract scenes and conversations plague this book. Events occur erratically, as one can expect when seeing life through the eyes of a mental case, yet the author goes beyond this and rambles on about what he wants to talk about at the moment. There is some interesting events that occur in Danny's past, yet there is no boundary between reality and insanity or past and present; it all melds together. A split first-person account with another character would have helped to clarify some things, but obviously David Athey did not want this book to make any sense.

If David Athey is to have a future as an author, he needs to actually learn how to write a plot instead of write a meandering book about nothing in particular. Some parts of Danny Gospel showed promise while the book as a whole did not. David needs to go back to the basics before writing something like this.

2 stars

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